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Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet

By MATTHEW SINGER

And you thought the drummer from Def Leppard cheated fate. At age 20, virtuoso guitarist Jason Becker was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, a nerve disorder so hopelessly ravaging that patients pray to get brain cancer instead. It couldn’t have happened at a more cosmically fucked-up time, either: Becker had just landed the most coveted gig in late-’80s hard rock, succeeding Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai as David Lee Roth’s right-hand axeman. Within months, he went from touring the country with Diamond Dave to sitting nearly paralyzed in a wheelchair. Eventually, he lost the ability to speak. Death was, supposedly, right around the corner. That was two decades ago. Not only is Becker—as the title of this documentary makes clear—not dead yet, he’s learned to communicate through a form of eye-based sign language. And, miraculously, he’s still writing music. It’s a story that doesn’t need much manipulation to induce sympathy or awe, but director Jesse Vile spends the first half of the film building a one-dimensional portrait of Becker as the world’s most innocent would-be rock star, who bought flowers for hotel maids and would rather practice his instrument than engage in the excesses of the road. All of which might be true, but when presented in a strict linear narrative isn’t particularly engaging. (Plus, if we’re being honest, his music is the kind of Malmsteenish wankery that gives Guitar Center clerks tingly feelings but bores the shit out of everyone else.) Becker’s life doesn’t need to be idealized. It is inspirational enough. 

 

Special Note

Clinton Street Theater
 
  • Genres: Documentary
  • Running Time: 87 minutes
  • Release Date: Friday, November 16, 2012
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English
  • Critic's Score: B
  • Directed by: Jesse Vile [Director], Jesse Vile [Producer], Oli Harbottle [Executive Producer], Dennis Joyce [Executive Producer], Jason Becker [Original Music], Michael Firkins [Original Music], Carl Burke [Cinematographer], Gideon Gold [Film Editor]
  • Watch the trailer
 

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